LURGAN Celtic finally ended their jinx at Glen Road, Belfast last Saturday beating bogey side Sport and Leisure 2-1 to take full points off their opponents for the first time since season 2009-2010.
Before the match the management made a surprise re-shuffle and named striker Raymond Fitzpatrick at centre back as Michael Toland had been sick on Friday night (he started on the bench) while Steven Boyd also started at right back with Declan McVeigh moving to left side with Shannon Drainey making up the back four with the rest of the side on the usual lines.
Celtic started off the better side with Stefan Campbell and Daniel Ryan looking dangerous in attack and after Campbell forced a corner Niall Lavery sent the ball over for Drainey to get in a header which high and wide. Brendan Mackin then went on a trade mark run beating several player but was closed down by a packed defence as the home side took no chances by keeping plenty of men behind the ball. Shortly after this Lavery fed Campbell who saw his blistering effort go inches wide of the right hand post.
Sport and Leisure eventually moved upfield forcing a corner which Ciaran Fox in the Hoops goal punched away under pressure and Fitzpatrick gathered the ball and surged upfield taking on the home defence but was fouled 25 yards out and Lavery hit a disappointing free well over the bar. At this stage it was all Celtic with nothing to show for their efforts and in the next attack Lavery hit an effort just inches over the angle of the goal with the keeper well beaten.
Almost immediately the home side finally breached the Hoops rearguard and looked like opening the score against the run of play only to see Fox pull off a sensational double save to turn the ball away low down at his left post and from the resultant corner he took a great catch to snuff out any danger.
Aaron Haire then had a shot go close and Campbell broke down the right and just on the edge of the area was body checked, but the referee waved play on with the Hoops players and supporters claiming a foul. Approaching half time the same player was pulled back and from the free kick Fitzpatrick headed narrowly over and it started to look like the home side would hold out until the interval. However on 43 minutes Celtic did get the goal their play deserved when Ryan, far out on the left, pressurised the full back and took the ball inside to hit an unbelievable shot low into the net to give the Hoops the lead.
However, the lead only lasted a minute as from the kick-off the home side went to the other end and despite Fox getting a hand to a shot the rebound was poked home to level the score as the Hoops defence switched off after taking the lead. The last action of the half saw Campbell pass to Ryan who just failed to connect leaving the sides level at the half time break when in reality Celtic really should have had the match wrapped up.
The second half was much the same with Celtic having most of the play and Mackin was unlucky to be put through and be blown up for offside, indeed some of the decisions by the officials were to say the least puzzled spectators and players alike. Ryan then broke away down the left and sent a shot across the face of goal and shortly after this Lavery had an unbelievable miss when the ball broke to him right in front of goal and he contrived to blast it well over the bar from a couple of yards.
The pressure finally paid off as Ryan and Campbell combined down the left and after the keeper parried a shot a home defender handled the ball. The penalty was easily despatched to put the Hoops in the lead once more in the 70th minute. The game continued with the pattern same but ten minutes from the end Drainey took a knock and had to be replaced by Shane McCabe and worse followed on 88 minutes when Mackin received a second yellow and was sent off. The home team some heart and they forced two free kicks but each time they sent tame headers well over and the ref blew time on a contest which should never have been as close as the score suggests.